On the evening of April 13th, nearly a week after alleged chemical attacks on Syrian civilians in the Damascus suburb of Douma, President Trump, along with allies in the UK and France, launched a limited intervention to diminish the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. These missile and aircraft strikes come after failed attempts at United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding the chemical attack. Russia has vetoed resolutions due to its alignment with the Assad government.
Following the strikes, the Pentagon informed the press that three targets had been struck, which had “set the Syrian chemical weapons program back years.” Among the sites targeted were a chemical weapons research and development center, a storage facility, and a bunker facility. There were no Western forces harmed in the operation; however, the effectiveness has been challenged by Russia and Syria. The United States military claims that no aircraft or missiles were successfully engaged by Syrian defenses; meanwhile, Russia asserts that 71 of 103 missiles were shot down by the Syrians before reaching their targets.
Response to the airstrikes has been mixed both internationally and domestically. After news of the international military action broke, governments and politicians were quick to release statements on the matter. Notably, Turkey’s Erdogan called the strikes “appropriate” and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “fully supports” them. China has responded by saying that it opposes the use of force and that there can be only a “political solution” to the Syrian conflict.
Republicans in Congress have been mostly supportive of President Trump’s actions, with a general focus on seeking a clear long-term strategy for handling Syria and the various parties involved. Democrats and some Republicans have been more critical, however, due to concern with presidential overreach in Trump’s not seeking Congressional authorization to conduct military operations. Senator Tim Kaine stated “President Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against the Syrian government without Congress’s approval is illegal and — absent a broader strategy — it’s reckless.”
Looking forward, President Trump has stated his intention to get American troops out of Syria and his chemical weapons red line does not alter that goal. Syrian President al-Assad has been warned that strikes will occur again if he continues to use chemical weapons on civilians, leaving the future of U.S. military involvement in Syria to the “Butcher of Damascus.”